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possessing appearance, and following the profession of an architect. And this was the manner of his speaking.
One day, late in July, Irene had been hard at work in her studio, and did not until the evening pay her accustomed visit to Mrs. Rivers, who lay in the parlour, her son and youngest daughter both with her, one busy with account-books, the other with school lessons.
“I must have a walk this evening,” Irene said, after talking with the invalid a few minutes. “Could either or both of you come with me?"
Bat Lettie could not leave her preparations for the morrow. So John and Irene set forth alone together.
“Shall we go on the Downs ?” he asked.
“Not to-night ; I am tired. Let as go into the Greyland Fields.''
And they went: passed down the long avenue of elms, until they reached the gates of Greyland House, standing far back in its garden, where grew great aloes, and where the branches of the cedars swept the lawn; then up a lane running beside the garden wall, and opening at length on a little green : in the midst a small group of trees, and on one side a clear pool, and round about a few quiet-looking houses, and a little church, built before the Gothic revival, that looked yet more quiet than the houses, and as if it stood there on its own account, with no alterior view to any possible congregation.
“I wonder what it is which gives Greyland Chapel this air of never being used ? ” Irene remarked. It was difficult to say, for there were no signs of neglect. The grass of the little yard was closely cut, the pavement well swept, and the glass of the square windows clean and bright. “This gate is open, and the vestry door,” she said; and in obedience to a loug habit of hers she entered, and John followed. An old man was in the yard beating very gently some mats and cushions, out of which no dust seemed to be coming. He just looked up, but took no other notice, as they went in at the little door, and through the vestry into the chapel. It was by no means a beautiful building, but it was secladed, neat, and cool.
“I have been standing nearly all day, and am tired," Irene said. “Let us rest a little.”
So John sat on a high-cashioned front seat, but his companion, for greater ease, took possession of a bassock near his feet, and leaned against the cushion on which he sat. A few ordinary words were exchanged as to the pleasantness of resting, the smallness and formality of the building. Then a silence fell. Irene thought of nothing in particular; but to John's mind came the old question
ings, longings, fears. She had removed her hat, and a ray of reflected sunlight brightened the rich clustering masses of her hair, brought by her position so near his hand. When she was more of a child be used to fondle these carls; but he never did so now.
Presently she said, “I am glad you were not too busy to come. It seems a long time since we have had a walk together. I'm half ashamed to
say I like my own company better than that of most people; but not than yours.”
“Irene, do you think you will care for me always ?” he asked. It was nearly the same qnestion he had pat years ago in St. Austin's churchyard ; but now with how much deeper feeling!
“Of course I shall,” she replied, surprised. “Why not? You will always remain, I'm sure, the same good man you are now, worthy of love; and I have many faults, Jolin, but I am not fick le."
“Bat changes, separations, come in life," he said, with a sigh.
“Yes," she replied, “they do. We may be parted in the futare, and I should be very, very sorry; but I could love an absent friend ; and so, I suppose, could you. "
Should he speak? Yes ; he must, he would. But he constrained his voice to quietness as be said, “Irene, it would be possible to prevent any future separation.” “ How?
What do you mean ? ” she asked in a puzzled tone. Then suddenly exclaimed, “You don't mean marry you ? How absurd !” and an amused look came into her eyes.
“I fear it is,” he said, pained by the want of serionsness in her manner, and thinking bitterly of hɔw little he had to offer.
“Of course it is. We took each other for brother and sister; and that we have been, and very happily. You are the dearest friend I have, except Mrs. Weatherill. In some things you seem even nearer than she is, and I know you care for me quite as much as for either of your sisters. I think we might both rest satisfied ; I am.”
“So I might be, perhaps, in a sense, if it would last.”
“Oh, now I know what is troubling you, and has put this nonsense into
: meeting me with Mr. Arnold. I assure yoa, John, he is nothing to me, except Emily's brother. I cannot help it if he cares for me, and if he overtakes me as I am coming from the Academy I cannot well bid him walk on the other side of the road ; though, generally, I should prefer my own society. I do not care for him at all. He will never make anything of an architect. He showed me several designs-plans, elevations, and drawings of foliated capitals. They were very poor; no meaning, no unity of design-soulless things! Indeed, you need not troable aboat Henry Arnold; I like you a hundred times better. But as to marrying; if ever I should marry, it mast be some one different, ob, altogether different, from him or from you! So beautiful!” and her eyes grew dreamy, and as if looking a long way off.
your mind :
“Very different from myself in appearance, and in other things?” he repeated, sadly.
“ Yes,” she said, “very.” But as she spoke she looked up, and saw the flush of wounded feeling on his pale face, and the pained look in his eyes.
“Dear John,” she said, “forgive me. I have vexed you ; I am so sorry. I did not intend to say anything disrespectful or unkind," and she laid her band caressingly on his, as it rested, in the listlessness of depression, on his knee, and looked up pleadingly.
"You intended no unkindness, dear, I know," he replied, taking her white shapely band within his own. “ Indeed, I did not,” she said again. “Let me talk to you
about it just as I feel; only I hardly know how to express exactly what I mean. You see, John, I don't want to be married to any one; not really; not now. I never think about it in that way at all. Why should I? I love my work; delight in it, in every part of it, from the earliest conception-the first sketch-to the finishing touches. It is entirely a joy to me, for its own sake; and it promises to yield me repatation and competence-perhaps something more, into the bargain. Why should I wish for any change? Most certainly I do not.” Then she paused.
“But I have dreams, fancies sometimes, as I soppose others have. But, then, it is of some one beyond all comparison, nobler than any one I have really ever known, except my father.
One I could not only love, but admire, venerate, worship; look ap to, as immeasurably higher than myself ; perfectly beautiful, and heroically good ; a painter, poet, musician, sage--no matter which ; but a very king among men, by the divine right of unquestionable preeminence. Now, dear, you see I intended no discourtesy in not thinking you jast that."
“And sometimes," she went on, " though not nearly so often, I have dreamed of wealth and rank. Not that I care much for money in its more vulgar uses, or imagine true nobility or refinement dependent opon position. But I should like to dwell in a stately home, with lofty hall, grand staircase, corridor, galleries ; or in some fine old mansion, rich in memories of the past, and walk in my terraced garden, and under the great trees of my park; and I suppose the higher classes do possess a polish and cultivation of manner which must have a certain charm.”
Then she looked up brightly. “Now, John, do you not see you have no need to trouble yourself ? I hold you in truest esteem and affection. You stand first at present; and as to the future, you see who your rivals are to be; and an Apollo, a St. Sebastian, a Raffaelle, or a Milton may be somewhat long in coming; or even the princely owner of Chatsworth and Haddon Hall, or of Alton Towers or Warwick Castle.” Then she rose. “Perhaps we had better be walking towards home. I have rested nicely; and we will not, either of us, talk or think of this ever any more.”
For John this was not so easy. Still, his mind was more at rest. He knew that Irene had told him the truth, as far as she knew it herself—the truth as it was at present. Yet, knowing somewhat more of human nature, his assurance was less than hers, that as she felt now so she would feel always. For fall well he knew that, in the service of love, ideals can be brought down towards the level of realities, and realities be idealised into nearer conformity with lofty standards than they actually possess. Thus in the future it might be with her. Well, the future he must leave !
So the summer passed, and the autumn, and the winter came, bringing Christmastide, and nothing had occurred to give John renewed anxiety. Bat before the New Year had gone very far on its way his watchful eyes, quickened by love, took note, or believed they did, of some indefinable change in her appearance and
It was dreary February weather; dark skies, chilling rains, miry streets. Irene delighted in the glow of summer, its warmth and light. She always said that her very mind and soul seemed frozen up by winter's dismalness and cold; but to John it seemed far otherwise now, rather as if every gift, faculty, and charm had received enhancement. She trod the muddy pavements as if she walked on air. She had never sang as she sang now; her voice, in speaking, had never sounded so melodious; her eyes grew more beautiful than ever-softer, more wistfal, yet glowing as if with the first sight of some andreamed-of and exceeding joy.
More perfectly lovely than ever surely she had become; but was be mistaken in so thinking ?-farther off from him. Not that her manner or her words were distinctly less affectionate, or that she came less frequently to his home; but he seemed conscious of some reserve, which as the weeks went on did not pass away. He could not feel that he was made as fully as heretofore the confidant of her feelings and her thoughts; scarcely informed so certainly of her movements from day to day, where she went, and what she did.
So the old trouble retarned, and the old fear; though in what direction to look for the apprehended danger he knew not. Mr. Arnold had relinquished a hopeless pursuit; and though some of her lovers had been more persevering, and two new suitors had
appeared, John felt convinced that to none of these did she vouchsafe the smallest encouragement. But was there another, of whom he knew nothing, who fulfilled more nearly her lofty ideal? Was love, in its absorbingness, cooling the warmth of sisterly regard ? Or was it all delasion, a needless self-tormenting? Was he mistaking imagination for observation, investing with significance circumstances which were merely accidental; fancying a natural development into yet fuller beauty to be a sudden enhancement, a lighting ap from a hidden source ?
Irene was engaged upon a picture intended for the Spring Exhibition, in connection with the Westhaven Fine Arts Academy. What the subject was John did not know. While a picturo was in progress, she did not always choose to tell.
"Is your Academy-picture finished, Irene ?” he asked. It was now April
“ Yes," she said ; " varnished five days ago. You would like to see it?"
John wondered she had not told him of the completion before ; not so very long ago he would surely have known sooner.
It is very simple ; but I like it mach,” she remarked, as they entered the painting-room, and she prepared to remove the covering.
“It is beaatifal! very,” he said, as they stood together; but his voice was low and troubled.
The picture was of a fair young girl ; in her hand, held tenderly, was a half-blown moss rose, with leaf and bud. She might have been about the same age as the artist herself, otherwise there was no resemblance. Complexion, features, form of face, growth of hair, all were different. But in the eyes was the very look of wistful tenderness, of newly-discovered joy, which had come of late into Irene's own.
“I have not yet decided what to call it,” she said, after they had been standing a few minutes in silence. "I do not care to give a distinctly descriptive title, ‘Love's Young Dream,' or anything like that. You knew what it meant ?
And John felt that he knew only too well.
CHAPTER XXXI.-A DREAM DISPELLED.
A few weeks later, as May was hastening into Jane, Mrs. Weatherill sat alone one night in the parloar of Gracefield Cottage. Within the house there was perfect silence, for it was half-past ten, and both Susan and the younger servant had gone to rest but without was much sound-pouring of rain, the sighing and sobbing of wind, the shakir g of the dripping trees, the tapping